From time to time I mention that I’ve been retired from pastoral ministry for the last three years. My final sermon at the church I served was in June, 2017. Then in early August of that year I had the privilege of preaching at the First Baptist Church of Crestmont, in Abington, PA. First Baptist is a growing African-American congregation, and their pastor, Jerome Coleman, was kind enough to invite me to preach there before we moved to where we live now. It was a wonderful time, and I will never forget the kindness Jerome and his people showed to me. But since then these vocal chords have been stilled. Well, at least in terms of preaching.
We visited a number of churches, but in January we began attending a church plant in the Lehigh Valley. Several months ago our pastor, Ben Triestman, asked if I would be able to preach for him. Then the pandemic hit and everything shut down. Like many churches, Orchard Hills Church is streaming its services. Initially I was going to preach live on July 19 with no congregation, but that was changed to recording a sermon this past Tuesday to be used this coming Sunday, July 26. In contrast to the last time I had preached, with a church filled with enthusiastic worshippers, on Tuesday there were two guys in the room with me. And they were wearing masks, so I have no idea if I put them to sleep!
Preaching after a long layoff was a great experience, even in Tuesday’s unusual setting. As I prepared and preached, and then thought about how it felt to preach again, a number of thoughts came to mind. But the one thought that has been most dominant is this: preaching is an incredible privilege.
Just think: we have the inspired, inerrant Word of God, transmitted through the centuries through great sacrifice, telling us everything that God wants us to know so that we might be his children and honor him in the way we live. Then we have churches composed of sinful people, many of whom are are now counted righteous before God because of Jesus. And between the Word and the Church are frail people like you and me who are entrusted with the task of teaching God’s Word to God’s People and inviting those who are not part of God’s family to repent and believe the Words about the Word (Jesus).
There is nothing routine about that, no matter how many times you’ve preached. I was reminded of that again, as I often was when I was serving as a pastor. And this weekend as you stand before your church and open the Bible with them, I hope you will be reminded of the awe-inspiring opportunity that God has given you.
Knowing the greatness of our privilege as preachers prevents hubris, keeps us from being casual in our study and our delivery, and reminds us that we are dealing with the stuff of eternity.
I was sharing some of these thoughts with a friend who is also a retired pastor and he said this: “Preaching is a privilege…a wonderful and great adventure. I loved every minute of that. It carries a burden however. The thought that your words given by God Almighty can change a life for eternity–WOW!”
“Wow” is right. If you’ve lost that sense of how privileged we are, may God rekindle that in your heart. God bless you!